Eight groups of fans and supporters for soccer across Europe and North America released a statement calling out FIFA and the Qatar 2022 World Cup organizers for their unwillingness to discuss LGBTQ+ rights concerns ahead of the event.
As the World Cup Draw kicked off, the groups which include LGBTQ+ supporters for the England and Wales national teams as well as Football Supporters Europe used words like “slogans, gaslighting, and avoidance” to describe their attempts to engage with rep The discussions surround Qatar’s dismal human rights abuses and their records of oppression and censorship of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, creating concerns regarding the safety of LGBTQ+ fans at the World Cup.
“There has been little effort from organzsers to proactively engage around the concerns fans and rights groups have raised,” read the statement. “Instead, we have often heard the well-drummed PR line that “this is a World Cup for all”… We cannot, in good faith, tell our members – LGBT+ people or allies – that this is a World Cup for all.”
The “World Cup for all” line comes directly from the Qatar 2022’s “Social Sustainability” website that makes broad statements regarding “inclusion” and “accessibility” including some nice stock photos of diverse people. But the website fails to address any real concerns regarding issues in Qatar’s oppressive conservative culture, especially in regard to women’s and LGBTQ+ welfare and rights concerns.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, Qatar 2022 Security Chief stated that rainbow flags “may be confiscated” despite stating back in the fall that LGBTQ+ people would be welcome and acceptance. He warned against overt promotion of LGBTQ+ freedoms. He tried to justify the confiscation threat as a matter of “safety” and “protection” but LGBTQ+ football groups are not convinced.
"If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it's not because I really want to … take it to really insult him, but to protect him," Major General Al Ansari said. "Because if it's not me, somebody else around him might attack [the fan] … I cannot guarantee the behaviour of the whole people. And I will tell him, 'Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.'"
"If you want to demonstrate your view about the [LGBTQ] situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted," he said. "We realize that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate a political [opinion] or something which is in his mind. "Watch the game. That's good. But don't really come in and insult the whole society because of this."
Julie Erht of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, together with Ronain Evain of Football Supporters of Europe condemned Al Ansari’s comments. Stating, that the “so-called 'protections' are in fact smokescreens to cover up human rights violations. FIFA and Qatar must address these concerns immediately, and show the world there is a chance of carrying out a rights-respecting and safe tournament for LGBTIQ.”
The messages from Qatar 2022 and FIFA seem to be a mixed negative when it comes to their perspectives on LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms being respected. Both of which claiming that will be the case but at the same time, making statements that they will not. Leading to diminishing trust and lack of support for LGBTQ+ football groups and fans in regard to the event.
The fan groups’ statement shared their aims in their attempts to create dialogue with FIFA and World Cup 2022,
“To gain concrete assurances and examples of how LGBT+ fans, players, journalists and staff would be protected in a country that criminalizes their existence; to raise concerns regarding human rights in Qatar; and to shine a light on the plight of LGBT+ Qataris and those living in Qatar.” The statement continued: “A founding principle of our group is that we should be able to follow our team as our authentic selves wherever we play in the world without fear for our safety and with freedom from persecution.”
The lack of response from both FIFA and Qatar 2022 have led to nothing but frustration and disappointment. Leading major LGBTQ+ sports organizations, including Football v Homophobia, LEAP Sports, Federation of Gay Games, and European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, You Can Play, Athlete Ally and others to release a statement questioning that the risk for LGBTQ+ people to attend may be too high.
The lack of clarification and general frustration is also noted in the fan groups’ statement,
“We have seen no details about how our trans+ members will be treated with respect through security checks,” it continues. “We have heard no specifics on guarantees that LGBT+ people (fans or residents) will not be arrested for their existence. We have witnessed a complete disregard for fans throughout this broken process.”
It is hoped by all organizations that both FIFA and Qatar 2022 will actually step up their efforts to engage in discussion and dialogue to address these concerns. With only months to go, we can only wait and see.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
David "Dirk" Smith M.Sc, SDL, CSCS, (He/Him) is a sport psychology expert, strength & conditioning coach, swimming coach, sports diversity leader, published research scientist, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 12 years of experience, education, and training to empower athletes to build self efficacy, strength, confidence, and express themselves through sport.